Put up or shut up: Dearie asks Trump lawyers whether they believe FBI lied about seized documents

Put up or shut up: Dearie asks Trump lawyers whether they believe FBI lied about seized documents

The Washington Post reports:

The Mar-a-Lago special master on Thursday ordered Donald Trump’s lawyers to state in a court filing whether they believe FBI agents lied about documents seized from the former president’s Florida residence in a court-authorized search last month, or claimed to have taken items that were not actually in Trump’s possession.

In a Thursday afternoon filing, U.S. District Judge Raymond J. Dearie — the special master — told Trump’s legal team to state by Sept. 30 whether they believe any of the seized items were incorrectly described in the Justice Department’s 11-page inventory list, which said some of the documents were highly classified.

Dearie also told them to say whether they are claiming that any items on the inventory list were not in fact taken from the premises.

Trump has said on social media and in television interviews that the FBI planted items when they searched his Mar-a-Lago residence and private club on Aug. 8. He also claimed to have declassified documents found in that search that were marked classified and were highly sensitive. His lawyers have not made similar assertions in court, however, instead saying they have not reviewed the seized materials and are unable to confirm whether the government’s inventory list is accurate.

Dearie’s order, in essence, demands that Trump’s lawyers back up their client’s claims. “This submission shall be Plaintiff’s final opportunity to raise any factual dispute as to the completeness and accuracy of the Detailed Property Inventory,” he wrote. At a hearing Tuesday, Dearie pressed Trump’s lawyers to take a position on whether the classified documents were, as Trump has said, declassified, but they demurred. [Continue reading…]

Rolling Stone reports:

Donald Trump went on Fox News Wednesday night to vent to Sean Hannity about the civil fraud lawsuit New York Attorney General Letitia James slapped on him and three of his children earlier in the day. The former president didn’t exactly clear his name, instead claiming repeatedly that he has plenty of cash, very little debt, and that James’ investigation is nothing more than a political stunt.

The conversation eventually turned to another of Trump’s myriad legal quandaries: the Justice Department’s investigation into the material he was — and maybe still is — hoarding at Mar-a-Lago. Trump has long argued that he declassified all of the highly sensitive classified documents the FBI retrieved from his Palm Beach estate last month, a claim so dubious that his lawyers have refused to make it in court.

Trump told Hannity not to worry, though. There need not be any physical or even anecdotal evidence that he declassified the documents, as the president has the power to do it with his mind.

“If you’re the president of the United States, you can declassify just by saying it’s declassified — even by thinking about it,” Trump said. “Because you’re sending it to Mar-a-Lago or wherever you’re sending it. There doesn’t have to be a process. There can be a process, but there doesn’t have to be.”

Presidents are able to declassify documents, but there is typically a procedure for doing so. It’s up for debate whether presidents are required to follow any such procedure, but the idea that they can declassify sensitive material just by thinking about it is, of course, absurd.

“Hypothetical questions like, ‘What if a president thinks to himself that something is declassified? Does that change its status?’ are so speculative that their practical meaning is negligible,” Steven Aftergood, a secrecy specialist with the Federation of American Scientists, recently told The New York Times. “It’s a logical mess. The system is not meant to be deployed in such an arbitrary fashion.”

The legal system isn’t likely to buy Trump’s claim, either. Judge Raymond Dearie told the former president’s legal team on Tuesday that unless they provide some concrete evidence that Trump declassified the documents clearly labeled as classified, he will treat them as if they are, indeed, classified. [Continue reading…]

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